Last fall Tatum Breedlove was a senior in high school, set to graduate and college bound then she missed four months of school due to illness.
The timing was bad.
Missing school from November through February means the end of one semester and the beginning of another. It was too much instruction time to make up.
“It was really tough and my options were instantly very few,” Breedlove said. “Suddenly, I wasn’t going to be able to graduate.”
She was too old to start her senior year over the next fall.
“I had aged out 10-days before the deadline,” Breedlove said.
She checked locally with the Alternative Learning Center but found she was too late for that program also.
She felt that the bottom of her future had dropped out.
“Before, I had been accepted in to MSU to study in the school of sociology and I was ready to go,” she said. “Suddenly, I didn’t know what I was going to do. I gave up on the goal of attending college. Ever since I was little college had been everything that I aspired to do — it was my dream.”
In her quest for direction, she sought the council of Corvallis High School Counselor Alexis Holland and Hamilton Alternative Learning Center teacher Bob Carmody who directed her to Literacy Bitterroot an adult literacy program under director Dixie Stark.
Breedlove took the pre-assessment High School Equivalency Test (HiSET) test then studied the areas she was struggling in.
“Jaime Middleton, instructor at Bitterroot College, helped me with math and ‘Ed Ready Montana,’ Bob Carmody helped me too,” Breedlove said. “After many practice tests and months of study I took the HiSET. It was like taking the ACT or SAT and it did take some positive self-talk to get through.”
The results came back in about a week that she had passed the HiSET test.
“I remember getting the text from Dixie ‘You Passed!’ and I was freaking out and crying because it was such a long journey, like an emotional roller-coaster ride. I finally accomplished what I had set out to do,” Breedlove said. “I passed everything at the college-readiness level and now college is coming back into the picture. I went from not having any options to being back where I was.”
She credits Literacy Bitterroot for giving her hope.
“Without the people who helped me I don’t know what I would have done,” Breedlove said. “Honestly without this program I don’t think there would be any light at the end of the tunnel. My diploma just came and it is a state diploma – it is official. I was really excited for that to come.”
Breedlove said she is “beyond grateful” to the program at Literacy Bitterroot.
“I can’t even put into words how important it is,” she said. “Dixie goes above and beyond and does so much, she helps so many people. She makes it feasible and accommodating. I am so grateful to this program and everyone involved in it.”
Breedlove said the Literacy Bitterroot program is for anyone who needs it.
“That’s what I love about it — any one of any age from any type of background can use it,” she said. “It teaches people how to read, fills in the gaps and meets needs. It is so cool. It is the resource that so many people don’t have.”
Breedlove said her future is back on track as she plans to take classes at Bitterroot College starting in January and may attend Brigham Young University-Idaho for a degree as a licensed clinical social worker.
“I’m so excited to get my college career started and underway,” she said. “Hopefully, I’ll get my degree and do life as planned instead of scrambling. I’m so excited that I get to attend college, it is everything I’ve always wanted and more. I hope to be able to help kids that were in my position.”
Voters will decide a 1.5 mil levy to stabilize the Literacy Bitterroot program in Ravalli County on the November ballot.